Labour needs ‘more independent’ complaints process, Scottish leader says

Labour needs a “more independent” and “robust” processes for dealing with complaints, Scottish leader Richard Leonard has said.

Mr Leonard also said such investigations should also be “speedier”, saying this would benefit both sides in such cases.

He spoke out after controversially bringing MSP Alex Rowley into his shadow cabinet in October as local government spokesman.

Mr Rowley had stood down as Scottish Labour’s deputy leader in November 2017 after a former partner told a newspaper that their relationship “felt like emotional blackmail and abuse”.

The Mid Scotland and Fife MSP referred himself to the party for investigation, but the complaint was not progressed after the woman refused to allow him to see details of the claims against him.

She said she was “disgusted” when he returned to Scottish Labour’s front bench team, saying at the time: “It doesn’t send out a very good message at all.”

Mr Leonard said he did not believe the party’s processes for handing such complaints were “entirely satisfactory”.

Speaking at a Scottish Parliamentary Journalists Association event in Edinburgh, he said he would prefer the system to be “more independent than it currently is”.

Mr Leonard said “the person who had made the complaint against Alex decided that they weren’t prepared to allow him to see the evidence that was being put forward”.

While he said that “made it very difficult in the interests of natural justice for that process to continue” he added: “I have to say I don’t think it is entirely satisfactory.

“I would prefer to see a more independent procedure, there’s an element of independence in where people can go to register complaints inside the Labour Party but I think the oversight of it I would prefer to be more independent than it currently is.”

Mr Leonard said Labour was “trying to overhaul the party machinery that deals with complaints”, pointing to a big increase in the number of people who sit the party body that deals with disciplinary matters.

He stated: “It is simply unacceptable to me that these cases are taking as long as they are taking to be processed, which is neither fair to the complainer or the complainant.

“I want to see the party investing in more robust investigatory disciplinary procedures because we need to see fair and just resolution, but speedier resolution as well.”